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Honoring the Tongue of St. Anthony of Padua. His Tongue, known as the “Hammer of Heretics,” has its own Feast day.

“The Life of the Body is the Soul; The Life of the Soul is God”  St. Anthony of Padua

By Larry Peterson

He was born as Fernando Martins de Bulhoes in Lisbon, Portugal, on August 15, 1195. His family was wealthy, and this enabled Fernando to enter the upscale Abbey of Santa Cruz in Coimbra (at that time the capital of Portugal) when he was only 15. Fernando had a brilliant mind and quickly learned theology and Latin.

After Fernando was ordained a priest, he was named the hospitality director of his abbey. Shortly after that, Franciscan friars established a small hermitage outside the city. Dedicated to St. Anthony of Egypt,  Fernando developed a deep desire to become one of these friars. He sought permission to join them and it was granted. Upon entering his new order, he took the name of Anthony.

Anthony had a great speaking voice, a keen mind, and a great memory. As time passed by, he used his tongue so effectively at dispelling heresies and false rumors he became known as the Hammer of Heretics. He was the first theologian of the Franciscan Order and, besides being one of the greatest preachers to ever speak, he also possessed the spirit of prophecy and an extraordinary gift of miracles.

Anthony traveled to Morocco to preach but became very sick. He was returned to Portugal to recover but the voyage blew off course, and the ship landed in Sicily. From there, they went to Tuscany. The local friars had his health evaluated and assigned him to the hermitage of San Paolo.  Anthony spent most of his time recovering by praying and studying. However, he died at the age of 35.

Anthony of Padua was canonized a saint less than a year after his death by Pope Gregory IX. It was and still is one of the quickest canonizations in the history of the church.  In 1946, Pope Pius XII proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church. We also know him as the patron saint of lost things. His feast day is June 13. However, we also have the feast day honoring The Holy Tongue of St. Anthony. That is on February 15, and here is how that came about.

St. Anthony died on June 13, 1231. He was buried in the little Franciscan church of St. Mary, in Padua. Thirty-two years later, in 1263, the new basilica on the site was far enough along where they could transfer his body. The plan was to bury the saint under the high altar. When they opened the coffin, Anthony’s body had decayed into ashes and bone. Incredibly, his tongue was pink and moist and totally incorrupt. It was felt that his teachings were so incorrupt that his tongue remained the same way.

St. Bonaventure was present and what he said at that moment was, “O blessed tongue, which has always blessed God and caused others to bless Him, now it appears evident how great were your merits before God!”

Bonaventure picked up the tongue ever so reverently and placed it in a suitable vessel until a proper reliquary could be made for it. In 1310, when the basilica was almost complete, St. Anthony’s remains were moved there.

St. Bonaventure had found the tongue incorrupt but, incredibly, this was validated in 1981. Being carefully examined it was discovered that other parts of the Saint’s body connected to his vocal cords had been preserved from corruption. This newly discovered miracle of incorruption added            extra proof and validation to the story of the “Hammer of  Heretics.”

The Holy Tongue of St. Anthony is in a special reliquary in a separate chapel on the epistle side of the basilica. It has its own special day of honor which is February 15. .People visit The Tongue of St. Anthony to this very day. In fact, five million pilgrims visit the Basilica of St. Anthony every year.

St. Anthony of Padua, please pray for us all.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020